The Bonjour kit is now in the shop and will ship next week. I adore the stamp set in this kit especially. They are limited edition so when they're gone, they're gone. Merci beaucoup!
It's been a great summer for reading and I've been enjoying getting back into spending time with my nose in a book. Here's what I've dug into this month:
1. How Did You Get this Number by Sloane Crosley: I loved her first book of essays, I was Told There Would Be Cake. I think this one is even better and can relate with her through + through.
2. #Girlboss by Sophia Amorusa: I've been thinking more business thoughts and decided to check this one out. It was interesting at the beginning but about halfway through I did lose interest and haven't picked it up again.
3. Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas: I wasn't sure about this one (in fact I judged it by its cover) but I ended up thinking it was really cute. Girl moves from NYC to Paris for work, looks for love, spends her time eating pastries. I finished it in a night and enjoyed it.
4. I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron: Nora is my Oprah. Basically I have always wanted to be her. This is my first time reading her essays though and of course, I'm a fan. It's a good read.
5. Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah: I wasn't so sure about this one either but it was alright. Girlm moves from NYC to Paris with her husband, her husband has to leave for work, spends her time eating + cooking. There was a lot I skipped over but also a lot I identified with.
Clearly I'm on a bit of a non-fiction from female writers kick. I'm picking up a lot more memoirs lately and have been interesting in short stories or essays. Have a recommendation for me?
A couple weekends ago I took the Eurostar to London for my best friend Erin + her husband Pete's wedding out in the English countryside (their Michigan wedding blogged here.) I had a night before and a night after to enjoy the city and stayed at the Aloft Excel London Hotel.
I've stayed at the Brooklyn, Chicago, Cupertino, Brussels, and now London Aloft Hotels and they really do feel like a home away from home for me. Aloft is a branch of the W Hotel and comes with the top notch quality of the Starwood group. I love them. Really love them. The people working at the desks are always incredibly friendly and helpful and it's just a place where you want to hang out. Not to mention free wifi, which you don't always receive in hotels (especially in Europe.)
The rooms that I've stayed in at the multiple locations have all looked and felt the same, including the giant + very comfortable king size bed. They also have Bliss products in the bathroom and I now always carry around one of those nice little tubes of Bliss lotion in my purse.
Also one thing that helps make Aloft a favorite is no vending machines. They have a Re:Fuel store stocked with snacks + drinks, available at all hours. Plus breakfast for you to grab and go in the morning. So helpful to pick up a crossiant and coffee before making my way through London to the train station to head out to the countryside.
If I'm not selling you on booking a stay at an Aloft wait unti you hear this... they now have a robot butler on staff at the Cupertino location. How cool is that? I think I know where I'm staying next time I'm in the area.
This post was sponsored by Starwood Hotels but all opinions expressed are my own.
Last week a friend was teasing me. "You've lived in Paris for three months and haven't learned French?" Oui. I've always heard that the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it. But he was right. Three months in Paris and my French is still, as they say, merde.
I took four years of French in high school and the main thing I remember is that we watched Home Alone in French and I made Pillsbury crescent rolls with Hershey's chocolate baked into them, passing it off as pain au chocolat. I have a small vocabulary of words and have picked up a handful more since I arrived. But I struggle to string together sentences and my conversation skills are restricted to telling how many are in my party for dinner, ordering, and asking for the check. L'addition, s'il vous plait.
The fact is Parisians speak English to me. It has long been an assumed social standard that the French aren't eager to speak English. But truthfully, I have found it to be the opposite. I'm not certain if this is a kind gesture, taking pity on me and helping me out. Or an opportunity to stop me from further slaughtering their beautiful language with my incorrect pronunciations. Either way, nearly everywhere I go they understand me and I understand them.
My biggest issue was the first time I got into a cab late at night, when the metros weren't running. The driver couldn't understand what I was saying as my address. I kept repeating it, wishing I was more adept at making French R. It's not so much of a purring R like in English, it's more of suck up all of the air in your mouth then push it out with a RAR. We went on for quite a while, then finally he pulled out a pen and paper. I live on Rue Reaumer. Three months and I still don't know how to correctly pronounce it. Unsurprisingly, I now make sure I head for home while the trains are always in service.
I say bonjour every time I enter a store, cafe, run into someone in my apartment building. Everyone is very polite. I went shoe shopping once in Printemps Haussman, which is a fancy schmancy department store. The shoe department is made up of separate sections for each brand of shoes, with two or three salespeople for each brand. You step two feet into a new section and you're greeted by each person. "Bonjour." "Bonjour, madame." "Bonjour." I say a shy bonjour back to each of them. I circled that shoe department about four times, on a rabid hunt for shoes for an upcoming wedding. "Bonjour." "Bonjour, madame." Two hundred hello's exchanged. Zee French, they are friendly.
I say bonjour at the beginning and always a "merci, au revoir" at the end. It's the standard. So polite. I swear that I have had multiple experiences at Starbucks in the US where the people working there have not spoken a single word to me. I order, I pay, I say thank you, they say nothing, not even telling me what my total is - just leaving it up to me to look at the digital numbers on the register. Here in Paris my favorite coffee shops (five of them in fact) are run by Australians. They speak English + French and say a lot of "cheers!" They are incredibly friendly and we exchange a string of merci's, thanking each other profusely when I leave.
I find myself being very jealous of those who learned to be fluent in multiple languages at a young age. That's how it should be done. My native French friends, polite as they are, offer me many apologies for their poor English and accents. I frown, because they are speaking perfect English to me and have nothing to apologize or be embarrassed about. Je boude. My friend taught this phrase, which translates to "I sulk." I wonder why he felt it was appropriate? "Je boude maintenant," I insert into many conversations - most of which are concerning my impending departure date.
Alors, back to the friend who had been teasing me.
"Je suis contentment ici," he says.
I say, "I am... ...here?"
"I am happy here."
"Je suis contentment ici," I repeat.
Ah, I mais oui. I am.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about business, shop, brand, products lately (which isn't as fun as thinking about bread, cheese, crossiant, more cheese) and hope to continue to offer items that you will love using. There's a fun announcement coming soon for a big partnernship but for now, I'm doing some focusing on my little shop.
This month I'm trying something new and offering the Bonjour kit for pre-order. It will officially go on sale (on Friday but will be in a limited number. If you want a kit, please order now through the pre-order to make sure that you receive one. If they sell out, they will not be restocked.
I've also been tossing the idea of a monthly subscription back and forth but haven't decided yet. Any feedback would be appreciated. Shop the pre-order here.
In Paris, it matters how you dress. It just does. At the beginning of his book David Lebovitz describes changing into a button down shirt + crisp pants to take out the trash. Looking your best is part of the city's culture. I put on a full face of make-up everytime I leave the apartment, even if I'm only going to the grocery store. Dressing like a slob appears disrespectful. Show (and wear) the respect and you'll receive respect back.
Luckily the women of Paris are the masters of casual chic. I honestly don't know how they do it. No matter what they're wearing, they look effortlessly amazing with extra emphasis on the effortlessly. I certainly am no expert but here are a few things I've picked for you to pack to fit right in as you walk along the Seine.
2. J.Crew Painter Tee with Madwell Wavelength Skirt: you know how I love a tee paired with a skirt. Stripes make me feel oh so French and I love the zipper details on this one (in more colors as well.)
3. Club Monaco Liora Faux Leather Top with J.Crew Stretch Toothpick Jeans: as you can see neutrals rule here, so finding unique textures to add some interest is key. A pair of skinny jeans is an absolute must.
What girl isn't shoe obsessed? I spent a solid day shoe shopping in Paris and wandering around the Left Bank I've never seen so many shoe stores in my life. Here's the perfect way to not appear like a tourist - stylish yet incredibly comfy shoes.
1. Repetto Ballerina Flats: because of the cobblestone streets, flats are the smart way to go. These Repetto's come in a rainbow of colors. One for every day of the week?
2. DKNY Lucia High Heels: go from day to night in a chic pair of heels. The peep toes are right on trend.
3. Banana Republic Afton Ankle Boots: I'm obsessed with these ankle boots. They're easy to pair with all of the outfits above and will be great when the weather starts to get a cooler.
One more thing to pack in your bag is a matte red lipstick. Parisian girls wear minimal make-up but will add that perfect punch with dark lashes and red lips. My longtime favorite is MAC Ruby Woo. And now you're ready to rock the casual chic!
I travel by myself 95% of the time. I love it. Absolutely love it. I'm a person who likes their alone time (craves it actually) and doesn't mind doing things solo. I really enjoy being able to dictate my own agenda, schedule, and budget. And amount of sleep. I need a lot of sleep. So I thought I would share a few of my best tips for traveling on your own:
1. Save money on a hotel and use Airbnb instead: if you're not familiar, Airbnb is a website where you can rent a place to stay from a host. You can select to have the entire place all to yourself, to rent just a room in someone's home, or share a room. It's always cheaper than renting a hotel room and you'll have access to a kitchen if you want to save money on eating out or are nervous about dining alone. So if you're traveling solo and need to save a little money on lodging, especially when you'll be spending most of your time exploring and only using your room to sleep in, Airbnb is awesome. I've also seen the most amazing places that friends have rented - there are very cool homes ready for you to stay in.
2. Spend money to get a data plan for your phone: if you're traveling Internationally go to your wireless provider and have them add on a data plan to your phone. Trust me, it's worth the extra $30. I don't carry maps, mainly because I loathe looking like a tourist. Having a data plan that you can use for emergencies will make you feel much better about navigating around a new city on your own. Even if it's just to turn on the data for a second to location your position on the Google map. (FYI: T Mobile users how have the option to do an unlimited International data plan - which I think is awesome!)
3. Eat at the bar: this is one thing I look forward to when I'm traveling by myself. I take a seat up at the bar and make new friends. I've got the numbers in my phone of bartenders in all my favorite cities. If you're friendly and a good customer, they will take care of you. Not only will they give you recommendations of where else to check out, they will probably put you in contact with someone that works there who will in turn take care of you. Make friends with the people sitting next to you. If you're at a restaurant you like, ask them for suggestions of local places similar to the one you're at. You're sure to walk away with a list of places to check out.
4. It's ok to tell a lie: there are some places you travel where the men are just more aggressive (Italy, I'm talkin' about you.) I'm not saying they're unfriendly, they're just extremely persistent. It's ok to lie to them to make them go away. Tell them you're staying at a nearby hotel and walk into the lobby until they pass. Tell them you have a boyfriend who is in a business meeting and joining you in an hour. Tell them you don't speak their lanuage and walk away. It's ok.
5. Be an early bird: when I travel by myself I will go out for dinner and then go back to where I'm staying. I've made it a habit of never going out late at night by myself. I don't need to go to the bar or the clubs, I'd rather be tucked into my bed at 10pm reading or on my computer. I feel like going out late by myself is just looking for trouble. Not once in my many years of traveling have I ever thought "Man, I really wish I would've checked out that bar at midnight." (Note that in some countries like Spain, dinner gets started later and places don't open until later in the night. Choose somewhere close to your hotel or make sure you'll be able to easily get a cab at the end of your meal.)
6. Only use ATMs outside of the building: this might sound backward to you but it's for the best. Always use the machines that are accessible from the street and during the daytime when there are people around. Never go into the lobby of a bank when it's closed by yourself. Someone could very easily let themselves into the lobby to steal your money and nobody else would even know you're in there. Be safe.
7. Post where you're traveling on Facebook: I like to do this for a couple reasons. One is that you never know who might happen to be in the same city at the same time or who has a friend there they'd like to introduce you to. Connections can easily be made through FB and you might find yourself a great tour guide. It's also good that people know where you are just in case there is some kind of emergency. (Am I worried that someone will notice I'm traveling and my home is unoccupied and will then break in? No. Someone could watch me leave the house for ten minutes and break in then. Why over worry?)
8. Ask a stranger to take your photo: I have absolutely no shame about this one. I want pictures of me in the places I visit. My arm can only stretch so far for a selfie and that often crops out what's around me, which makes it completely moot. Just ask. I will survey the crowd before choosing. If there's a couple attempting a selfie, offer to take it for them then ask for the return favor. Older adults sometimes aren't as comfortable with working a camera or phone, I'll look for someone about my age. A teenager will probably be a pro with a camera phone. And Asians. They typically a good bet.
Traveling by yourself can be so amazingly rewarding. And you'll be able to stop to snap as many photos as you want without someone getting impatient. My number one tip is to go for it! You just might get addicted.
Le Bistro Paul Bert's steak frites is known as one of the best in Paris, so on a Saturday afternoon I headed over there to check it out for myself. The first thing I saw when I spotted the restaurant was an older woman sitting at one of the tables under the sidewalk with a very furry dining companion. She and her fluffy dog were enjoying lunch at Le Bistro Paul Bert.
At lunch they offer a wonderful prix fixe menu for 36E that includes your choice of a entree, plat, and dessert (appetizer, main, dessert) and it's quite a deal. Especially since the signature steak frites is included on the menu. And as for the menu, it's in traditional bistro style written on a chalkboard and brought to your table. Sitting at the sidewalk tables, it gets propped up against cars parked on the street.
I had the salmon tartare and famous creme caramel. I also ate every single bite of the steak. It was indeed delicious.
The three rooms of the restaurant are filled with things hunted and collected at the flea markets. I think this would be a wonderful place late at night, with the tables filled and the wine flowing. I felt very French during my meal here. All I need next time is my own little fluffy pup as a dining companion.
Le Bistro Paul Bert
18 Rue Paul Bert
I've been traveling quite a bit and these posts are coming out of chronological order but nobody knows except me, right? Right. So here we go with my first time in Copenhagen. When I started planning my summer trips I wanted to explore some Scandinavia design, which is right up my alley. Combine that with Copenhagen's infamous Nordic cuisine that has always intrigued me, and I found myself riding a bike all over this Danish city.
I'm going to stop right here and say... I never warmed up to Copenhagen. I'd heard from multiple people that it's one of their favorite cities and it is absolutely beautiful. But I just could not feel a connection to it. I think part of it was that it was very expensive and that was quite off-putting to me. I'm never ever ever one to be cheap when it comes to good food, but kept thinking "I'm paying how much for this meal?!" And it was definitely tasty + dining experiences that I really wanted to have. But I don't think that's the best mindset to be in for sitting back and enjoying a new place.
I learned on the first day that the public bus was also costly so I rented a bike for the rest of the trip. Copenhagen is an incredible biking city, arguably the best in the world. Everyone rides! It's so safe and drivers are used to having all of the bikers on the road. Best way to see the city.
And of course the design. Everything is so well designed in the city. If I could have afforded it (and had the suitcase space) I would have brought home so many dishes, office supplies, and furniture. The concept stores were impressive and my favorite was definitey Hay:
I biked all over town to taste what Copenhagen has to offer. And there was so much. I visited Torvehallerne for lunch, which is a fantastic food market. Also at the top of my must-eat list was Kodbyen's Fishmarket, which was INCREDIBLE and a meal at Meyer's Deli, the ultimate Danish cuisine:
I found Schonnemann's closed for renovations when I showed up and didn't make it to Manfred's, so go and test them out for me please. Rene Redzepi's Noma has been named the best restaurant in the world for years running but as one of the hardest reservations to get, it also alluded my budget. I did treat myself to the smaller tasting menu at Relae and was seated at the chef's table, offering a top notch night of good food + making friends with the young chefs. I also loved Atelier September, which is an Instagrammer's dream. However the views come with a price tag of $22 for a latte + avocado toast:
I stayed in a perfect apartment I'd booked on Airbnb which belonged to a graphic designer and filled with a lot of his personal artistic touches. And great design, naturally.
It was far from being an awful trip, I just never fell in love with the city like I did with the rest of the places I visited this summer. Has this ever happened to you? Maybe I'll revisit Copenhagen again. I think there's a bike ride to Noma some day in my future.